Trekking pole tents use hiking poles for setup instead of dedicated tent poles. While this saves weight, it also introduces an element of risk that is worth considering if one of your trekking poles were to break during a trip.
Trekking poles are pretty easy to replace in the Continental US if you’re near a Walmart or a Post Office, although you’ll probably lose a few days getting to a town and back to the trail to replace one. But if you backpack in rural areas or in a foreign country where replacement poles are much harder to come by, you might want to reconsider your choice of backpacking tent or tarp shelter if you rely on trekking poles to set it up. Places like Scotland, Sweden, Iceland, and remote areas in the United States come to mind as bad places to experience a broken trekking pole if your tent requires two intact trekking poles to pitch.
Trekking pole shelters can be quite strong, weather, and winter-worthy, which is why so many backpackers and adventurers rely on them in the backcountry. But trekking poles do occasionally break clean through or get bent out of shape when they’re used for walking. The type of break varies widely depending on the material the pole is made with and its design. I’ve had carbon fiber poles that have sheered clean through and aluminum poles that just bend awkwardly if I fall on them the wrong way.
If you’re lucky, you can piece together a broken pole with duct tape or bend it back into shape. But it’s doubtful that it will retain the strength or reliability of its original form. Still wrapping some strips of duct tape around your poles can be a useful risk mitigation step, so you can cobble together enough of a repair to erect a tent.
An even more conservative strategy would be to choose a single-pole tent or tarp shelter over one that requires two trekking poles to erect. Since you’re unlikely to break both trekking poles on the same day, carrying two poles can help build in enough redundancy to see you through your planned itinerary and back home.
If you backpack with a partner and you both use trekking poles, then a tent that requires two trekking poles to set up is probably a safe bet, since it’s fairly unlikely that you’ll break three poles on a trip. But that’s not the case if one person prefers to use a two-person tent that requires two trekking poles to set up.
Here’s a list of the most popular trekking pole tents in use by backpackers today. It shows how many trekking poles they require for setup and how many people can sleep in them. You can use it to see which tents can still be used if you break a trekking pole and which tents will be compromised.
For example, tents that can sleep one person but require two poles to set up are the highest at risk from a broken pole. While two-person tents that require one trekking pole to set up are the least risky to use if both occupants use trekking poles to hike with.
Do experienced backpackers worry about breaking trekking poles on trips to remote locations? They absolutely do!
This is good food for thought as you expand your horizons to include backpacking to more remote locales where gear replacement is difficult.SectionHiker is reader-supported. We only make money if you purchase a product through our affiliate links. Help us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.